Here, Borrow My Hanky

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So, my last post was about my own struggle with body positivity and how I have started trying to deal with it. I think the next step is to talk about being sex positive. To do so, we will have to look at several topics and even revisit some history. It is important to think about because I feel the LGBTQ community often times goes down a dark avenue when it comes to sex. It is used as a means of bypassing connection for the physical feelings it provides. It’s time we take sex back and approach it from a health mentality. Before I go that far, I want to dive into some view on fetishes and how we used to identify one another. So, my dearies, set down, pour yourself a glass of your favorite beverage, and let’s talk.

First stop into fetishism is the Hanky Code or flagging. Now some of you might be thinking “what the heck is he on about,” well Mary, the hanky code was used as a means to identify homosexuals and the sexual proclivities at a quick glance. See a hot guy walking passed in a pair of tight wranglers and you happen to notice that he has a light blue handkerchief hanging out of his left back pocket you would be able to quickly ascertain that he preferred to receive oral sex from his partner. If you happened to be someone who preferred to give oral sex, you knew you already had an in. Neat huh?

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No one really knows where or how the hanky code started, some say that it originated in San Francisco shortly after the gold rush era. It was a time when women were in short supply so during square dances one man would wear a blue bandana as a signifier that he would be the male or lead during the dance. Then there would be a man wearing a red bandana that would be the female or follower in the dance. They would be worn around their arms, hanging from their belts, or in the back pockets. It is also believed that the modern version of the hanky code started in New York around 1970 or 1971, a journalist of The Village Voice joked that instead of wearing keys to signify someone was a “top” or a “bottom” that they should just use different colored hankies. Others say it started in San Francisco at adult stores. However, Alan Selby, owner of Leather ‘N’ Things in San Francisco, claims he wrote the first hanky code. Selby says, “their bandana supplier inadvertently doubled their order and the expanded code would help them sell the extra colors they had received.” So, he created the first hanky code, printed them onto cards, and gave out with each purchase.

From the first cards printed, color meanings have expanded to include just about every color or style of cloth imaginable, Where you wear the hanky is as important as the color, Typically, any hanky worn in the left back pocket indicated you were the “top” or the “aggressive”, whereas the right pocket meant you were the “bottom” or the “passive.” Think giver and receiver, if the terms still leave you a bit left out. The hanky code was very popular for the BDSM community but as it relates to fetishism, it was found in all aspects of our community. For example, a lavender hanky meant you were either a drag queen or into drag queens. There is not one definitive list and it has changed a lot since its first appearance. What we do know is with the advent of the internet, the hanky code has grown and expanded because people have become much easier about discussing their fetishes with others of like minds, online. It has also progressed to include accessories to show the same meanings, like harnesses or singlets.

According to Leatherpedia.org  the hanky code is a perfect example of the theory called Symbolic Interaction. It is defined as “Symbolic Interaction is defined by applying meaning and value to people, places or things. It is a counterpart of instincts where we are born knowing certain information. SI is learned through experiences.” It basically means we put meaning to specific things to give it a value for us. It is not limited to only the hanky code but can be seen in religious iconography or even brand specific merchandising.

I am sure you are wondering how in the fuck do I know so much about this topic, do I use it, or am I just a weird freak. Well that would need a little history lesson to explain some of it. When I came out and started going to the bar near my hometown, I was unbelievably naive. If you asked me about leather culture and gay men, my knowledge would have been limited to what I had seen in Police Academy when they always seemed to end up in the Blue Oyster Bar, so needless to say it was lacking. The bar I visited was called The Park and the last Saturday of every month used to be Trade Night or Leather Night. It was when the BDSM group would come out with their boys on leashed dressed in leather chaps, harnesses, and jockstraps. You would see hankies tucked into their waistbands or belts of a wide variety of colors and often more than just one. As arousing and provocative as it was, I had no clue to the meaning, other than it was fueling my lustful desires. Thankfully, after I started dating, I had someone I might be able to ask what the hell was I seeing. I was embarrassed when I asked, but I had to know. My boyfriend at the time did have a bit of knowledge about it, due to some of his particular fetishes, so he schooled me and then promptly took me to the gay bookstore the very next day. Forever more my world was changed. As for being a practitioner, the answer is no I do not participate in the hanky code. That being said, I should probably wear an orange hanky in my back-right pocket since it indicates “not now, just cruising.”

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Take a look at the code and see what trips your fancy. If you want to put it into practice, grab the hanky of your predilection and head on down to the Leather Stallion on a Saturday night. Just be ready for what may happen if you are advertising. At the end of it all, it is about fun but always be safe. Make sure you tell your partner you are just testing the waters and not ready to jump double fisted into the deep end. And always, play safe.
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Barely Body Beautiful

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Disclaimer, this is a hard post for me to do.  I make no apologies for it, as it is a means of self-acceptance and growth. If you have strong feelings over it, then it has achieved its purpose for both of us. Hopefully, you will grow as I am trying to. Thank being said, let’s proceed.

My last post has got me thinking about self-image a lot. A friend shared his story of how his acceptance came to him, we are both about the same age and I wondered why my experiences are so much different. I fully understand that our journeys are ours and based on the choices we make, the cultural ideals that are forced upon us, preconceptions we develop based on our understanding, and so many more. As we build up walls to protect ourselves, we don’t think about tearing them down. We let others place constraints on us and we never outgrow them. The question, really, is why?

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When I was born, I was a skinny kid. I had a lot of allergies and I never really put on a lot of weight. I remember going to the doctor a lot, mainly for all the allergy tests, but there were other things. I was put on medication to help me put on weight and remember taking iron pills. At some point, it worked, I started putting on weight. Most of me growing up was being a chubby kid. I remember getting picked on and being called so many things. Fat was among them, a lot of weirdo, and even many that called me faggot. I knew early that I liked guys more than I did girls, but I also learned to hide it. It was already bad enough kids calling kids faggot when they didn’t understand the term, but if they knew I like guys it would be added torture. I never picked on kids for being overweight, after all my sister and I grew up with a mother who was larger. She taught us that all people were beautiful, but I never really learned that it applied to me. By graduation I was a large guy and I hated it. Throw that in with the fact that my hair was unruly, and I still had a “bucky beaver” overbite, I truly hated being noticed. I was much more comfortable hiding. Because I was trying to fit in, I dated And my preference was usually larger women. I am sure there are psychologists that would love analyzing what that meant. I joined a fraternity and decided that I hated how I looked. I started starving myself and when I ate is was usually ramen noodles or just macaroni and cheese. I cut my hair short and walked almost everywhere I needed to go, especially to and from work. And it worked, I lost a lot of weight.

When I left college, I was down to almost a size 34 waist and could wear large t-shirts, keep in mind I am 6’4, so being skinny wouldn’t be the best look for me. I was content. I came out fully when I left college and was pretty popular with other men, finally. None of this ever changed the fact that I still hated how I looked. I hated being in any state of undress in front of people. The only time my walls every came down was during sex. I could get lost in my own head and the pleasures two people could cause, that I didn’t really give it a lot of thought. The moment it was over I was up and immediately getting dressed. I have worked a lot to try and change that and have made small progresses. I can now be shirtless around people I am completely comfortable with, if I am home alone, I have no fears of being nude. But I still dislike how I look. I don’t share full body pictures with anyone, so this post is a HUGE undertaking. But putting it up is a step in the right direction. I am scared of how people will react and comments I may get, but this is for my personal growth. It has to be done.

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The Bear Community was going to be a place I thought I felt comfortable. After all, statistics say that the Bear Community makes up 14 to 22% of the gay male population, so I felt they would be accepting. The subculture started to rise because of a large number of gay men who did not fit the stereotypical gay mold; skinny, perfect hair, hairless chest in many cases, often overly flamboyant like a twink. But after being around the Bear community for a while, I learned that there was much discrimination amongst them as well. There is a group that I hung out with in Virginia and was THE Bear Community. I went to a few of their dinners and when they had events at the bars. Many of an underwear party was visited and they were always fun. What I started to realize was the segregation among them. The so called “muscle bear” types often didn’t associate with those that were more of the “chub” type. The ones who claimed to be “hyper-masculine” did not talk to those that showed any effeminate traits. I would hear the hushed tones of “He isn’t a ‘real bear’.” After going to many of their events, one of the council members approached me and asked me if I had thought about joining and if I did, I needed to come to their Bear Run because the sex parties were off the chain. When I declined to come to the run, he said it was probably good since I wasn’t a “Real Bear” either. I was good enough to be asked to come, but because I turned it down now, I am not good enough. It was then that I decided I wouldn’t be a part of the Bear Community. Even now I see the Bear Community rife with discrimination, minorities are often not tolerated at events, unless you show up to the sex parties you are often not considered a part of the group. If you aren’t butch enough, you don’t get to be in their little group. It’s too much, it is hard enough being myself with all of the negativity I feel towards my own image, I don’t need the added weight, pardon the pun.

Five years ago, I took pics around the time I was getting ready to turn 41. I wanted to see what I looked like shirtless and you can see two of them here. There are pictures from this year that are much less clothes. I have put on weight since they were taking five years ago, and shame fills me. Why should I be filled with shame, I didn’t do anything wrong. I only ate and got older, both of which are things I cannot prevent. It is even worse when I see pictures of myself, that other have taken. It is true that photographs show us everything that we do not see, mostly about ourselves. Each time I see one, there is a new thing that I hate about them. You would think that with age I would start to care less about what people think, the truth is as I get older, I surround myself by fewer people so as not to get judged.

We are told from childhood that we shouldn’t care what others think, there will be someone who loves us for who we are. I met one once who did not care of my imperfections, he loved me for my heart and soul, as I loved him. Since his departure, my walls have become thicker, my mask more painted to hide away from others. I am tired of waiting for this “someone” that may be out there. I must start loving what I have and realizing that is the medicine or magic I need. Each of us are truly beautiful and amazing creatures. That is the lesson we need to learn, not waiting for someone to validate us. I have a million imperfections, but they do not make me less of who I am. I cannot wave a magic wand and make it all disappear and suddenly we can be how we want to be and be loved for it. Just know, if you are reading this, you are not alone in your dark thoughts. You have the strength to endure the torment others put on you and there are people who will stand by you, remember to ask for help when you need it. You may be surprised how many are going through the same issues that you are and simply do not show it.

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Community At Odds

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After a conversation with friends at the bar, last night, this seemed all too relevant. I had been sitting on this article for a while trying to decide if I wanted to post it or let it set for a later date. Sometimes the universe tells you that something is more important than you thought it was and I guess this is one of those synchronicity moments.

Pride will be starting in a few short months and it’s the time when we are supposed to look back at our history and celebrate the advances we have made, honor those that have stood up at the Stonewall riots, and plan towards our futures. It is meant to be a time of solidarity and celebration. The problem is that is not the case within our community. Each of our individual groups are segregated along the line of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender, queer identifying. Inside of each of those group we further divide ourselves, twinks and bears, dykes and lipstick, and so on and so on. From there it goes to division based on minority, body shaming, fetish shaming, and even worse shaming others for how they dress. We fight to get the respect we feel we deserve from our heterosexual counterparts when we don’t even oblige ourselves that same courtesy. The question is why?

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From a very young age we are exposed to judgmental mindsets, we are introduced to the word perfection without relation to what it means. Media presents us with unrealistic mindsets of “perfection”, skinny, perfect hair, skin, and eyes, clothing from the hottest designers. Kids truly have it rough. Combine this kind of torture with dealing knowing you are different from the others. Not only do they have to worry about being judged because their clothes are not like their friends or they may be a bit overweight or they have glasses, now they are bullied because they maybe a young LGBT kid. Feeling they are truly alone in the world and no one understands what they are going through. That is some rough shit to have to live through and many do not. Teen suicide among LGBT youth is higher than other teens.  According to The Trevor Project  LGBT youths are three times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual youths are and they are five times more likely to have attempted suicide than heterosexual youth.

As we grow and age, we start to meet others that appear like us. We are introduced to more LGBT people and start to feel comfortable with who we are, and we start to believe we have a place that accepts us. All too often this isn’t the case. We quickly realize that our differences keep us just as divided as we were before. Scroll through any dating app and you can see the divisions and the shaming that goes on. “No fats or femmes, masc 4 masc, and straight acting for similar. Sure, we all have our specific tastes and preferences, but shaming others isn’t the answer. Nor should any of that prevent you from reaching out to someone and just talking.

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All of the judgments we deal with from our childhood on weigh us down. They shape how we view ourselves and define our worth with those around us. It shapes how we interact with people and view ourselves. I stand in front of the mirror, daily, judging myself harshly. “If I can just lose this much weight…” “If only my thighs looked like this…” “If only this perceived imperfection wasn’t here…” “Why can’t I be endowed like this porn star?” Many of which are unrealistic goals and many more aren’t healthy to try to achieve. We are left with the fake sentiment by so many words that there are people out there that will love us for who we are or if they can appreciate us for what we are we don’t deserve them. These come from many of the same people how make similar judgements. I recently read a tweet where a user was stating that he cannot understand why anyone would want to wear a jockstrap or a harness. They are not attractive, and he would never date someone who wore either. Here is that shaming mentality again. You would be so vain as to not consider someone worthy simply because of garments they wear? You may not agree with a particular fetish that someone has, but that doesn’t make them any less of a person or worth dating. What elevates you to a better position? Being overly critical of someone for a fashion choice is much more unattractive than a jockstrap.

There are many things that I am confident in myself over but looks and build are not among them. I stare in complete awe of those that have the courage and not give a fuck mentality to be themselves in front of others. The ones that do not give a single thought to how they are perceived, because they are happy with themselves. I am one of those larger almost bearish types of gay men, however I do not have the body hair that many have That leaves me with feeling less than those I am attracted to. Because my lack of hair and larger build, I know I may be repulsive to the more in shape guys that I also find attractive. Where does that leave me? At 46 I have mostly grey hair and beard, a trait that I have carried for almost 20 years. I started going grey in high school and take after my grandmother who was mostly grey in her 20s. This leads others to believe I am older than I may be, so less desirable. Are these feeling mostly in my head? Yes, but does that make them any less real to me.

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I know how exhausted constantly thinking about my negative emotions make me feel, I cannot even begin to imagine how someone who is transgender feels in our world. Our community is tortured enough by those who feel we are already less than equal, why should we carry this over to how we interact with each other. I am not saying we should have a Utopian society, that too is unrealistic. We should, however, work towards inclusion and acceptance of one another. Use our strengths to lift us up from our low spots, use our fellowship to guide us and shape our futures into a safer environment for our future LGBTQ brothers and sisters. We have lost a large chunk of our history to the devastation of HIV/AIDS, let work to make sure we don’t lose a larger chunk of our future to the suicide of our youth.

Bi-negativity of LGBT

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Switch hitters, fence post sitters, AC/DC, confused, and straggot are just a few terms that are thrown out by people when the term bisexual comes up. Even more sad is that a lot of these terms are still being said by our own community. It seems that when it comes to judging others, we are often harder on our fellow brothers and sisters. Why do we have such strong emotions against bisexuals when we are so adamant for fighting for our own rights and acceptance? What is it that we feel is an attack to us or an insult?

When I was a young gay, I remember hearing many of the terms listed above. I remember hearing that bisexual men were merely confused and just hiding that they were gay. There would be anger towards bisexuals, saying they were holding our struggle back by being able to easily go back into the closet for safety. Many felt anger that bisexuals were decreasing dating options we had under an illusion of being something they were not. The truth is, any of us could, and even sometimes do, hide our very natures out of reasons of protection. So why does this create a feeling of animosity to those that identify as bisexual? There was even a time in which I thought and said similar things. Here I was going through this deep struggle of trying to accept that I was different and the fear of being physically hurt for what I was on the inside and they could easily hide by dating members of the opposite sex. It angered me that someone would be able to flip who they slept with, at what seemed a whim, and not have to worry about anyone judging them. What I failed to realize is that their struggle was the same and, in many cases, worse than my own. Not only do you have to rationalize being attracted to members of the same sex but that is doubled by also still being attracted to the opposite sex. Leaving you with a feeling of what are you doing wrong to have these feelings that so many say is wrong and sinful.

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The fact is binary concepts of sexuality still pervade into our own LGBT mindset. For many gays and lesbians, we see sexuality as an either-or condition, either you are heterosexual, or you are homosexual. We still believe that at some point they will have to decide to be one or the other, if they ever hope to truly have a relationship. Beyond that we still view them as a group that may be incapable of carrying on a relationship or are solely driven by sexual impulses, seeing them as sleeping with everyone because they don’t have to fall into one category or another. Perhaps this is rooted in some form of jealousy for a freedom we do not, ourselves, seem to have. Even heterosexuals have weird grasps of bisexuality. Many think that once a bisexual marries someone that they are no longer bisexual, like when Larry King interviewed Anna Paquin. That somehow you can only be bisexual if you are single and sleeping around.

Gay and lesbians know all too well the struggles we go through trying to accept we are, just imagine the added issues of being bisexual. Also imagine the pain we go through from constantly coming out in new situations, now think of how much harder that is for bisexuals. They are often told they are lying about their true natures or simply confused. They are often judged harshly for sleeping with members of their own gender and can be rejected by both potential partners because of their past romantic involvements. Gay and Lesbian Alliances have turned away bisexuals because they do not fit the molds of how they feel their services are designed to help. They need the same support systems we do, when we are facing dark times. Here we are claiming we are safe zones when, in fact, they are only safe places for a narrow view of what we think our community should be.

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According to Bustle.com  they reported a 2013 survey done by Pew Research Center that states, “While 71 percent of lesbians and 77 percent of gay men are out to the people close to them, only 28 percent of bi people can say the same. The numbers were even lower for bisexual men, only 12 percent of whom are out.” Numerous other surveys report that 45 – 50% of the LGBT population identify as bisexual, that is half of our community, but only about 28% of those numbers openly identify as bisexual. Often many prominent figures that have identified as bisexual throughout their lives are often remembered as gay icons after their passing. Take for instance Freddie Mercury, front man for the iconic band Queen. Throughout his life he had male and female partners, but history instead portrays him as gay.  Our own LGBTQ history forgets many bisexual leaders that were there throughout the movement. We see the focus on Harvey Milk, Cleve Jones, Audre Lorde, and Barbara Gittings, all of which identify as lesbian or gay. Less is known and even shown of bisexual leaders like James Baldwin and Brenda Howard, who were instrumental in the early rights movements and key in bringing spotlight to bisexuals. Even bisexual organizations are less talked about, take for instance the Boston Bisexual Women’s Network founded in 1983. They still publish their quarterly newsletter called BiWomen and is the oldest bisexual publication in the world.

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Eliel Cruz, historian of AIDS and HIV activism was quoted as saying: “Not only was the bi community suffering because of the HIV/AIDS, they were fighting it. While the media was busy scapegoating bi men for spreading the disease to women, bi activists like Dr. David Lourea and Cynthia Slater were out raising awareness and offering sex education in the same sex spaces of San Francisco. In fact, throughout the history of ‘gay rights’ bi activists and allies have been consistently erased…” Even today, healthcare workers are more apt to judge bisexuals more harshly in STI situations than they would lesbians and gay men. Biphobia hasn’t diminished as LGBT rights have expanded, in fact many times they are left as the invisible minority. According to thinkprogress.org (https://thinkprogress.org/media-ignoring-bisexual-community-3a46e7081bb1/) “Compared to peers who identify as gay or lesbian, bi+ youth and adults report higher levels of mental illness and suicidality, and lower levels of social support; bisexual youth report higher rates of bullying and harassment; and bisexual people face disproportionately high rates of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and stalking.”

What we, as a community, need to fully realize is that their sexuality is as valid as ours. Who they are as people and choose to love is as fundamental as it is to deal with being transgender. We need to embrace each of us as equals. Reshape our mindset to remove the stigmatism we have about our bisexual brothers and sisters. The gaps we have in inclusion in our community is what keeps us from organizing to erase the hatred and violence towards us. We must be strong together for each other, after all no one else, but ourselves, will look out for us. If you see bisexuals being judged or mistreated, be sure to stand up just as you would for any gay, lesbian, or transgender. Let us validate their choices as genuine as our own, realize that their sexuality does not change, regardless of their relationship status. They are not pretending to be straight if they are dating members of the opposite sex or short-term gay if they are dating members of the same sex. Their contributions to our history are as important as anyone else’s for getting us to where we are now.

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Heteronormativity of LGBTQ People

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The very core of who we are is implanted into us during our childhood. Sure, you may argue that education causes us to look out who we are, decide what is good/bad about it, and make needed changes to evolve, but keep in mind how we define those very structures is based on our upbringing, the very way our parents raised us. For LGBTQ youth, we grow up in a familial culture that doesn’t understand our very differences. Our parents teach us what they, in turn, learned from their parents. It is a perpetuated cycle of heteronormativity and most cases it’s so ingrained into us that we do not see it as anything else other than how we are raised. We are taught that we should be looking for someone of the opposite sex to get to know, settle down, marry, have kids, and start the whole cycle again. Our parents weren’t taught there was a difference, at least in a positive light, so it is seen as the only way to be and anything else is an aberration.

 

What is heteronormativity, Merriam Webster says this : heteronormative adj – of, relating to, or based on the attitude that heterosexuality is the only normal and natural expression of sexuality. Unfortunately, this doesn’t really speak to the very nature of heteronormativity. The Medium.com goes further with a definition from other scholarly sources that says:

Ranging from organizational to interpersonal spheres, the presumptions that there are only two sexes; that it is ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ for people of different sexes to be attracted to one another; that these attractions may be publicly displayed and celebrated; that social institutions such as marriage and the family are appropriately organized around different-sex pairings; that same-sex couples are (if not ‘deviant’) a ‘variation on’ or an ‘alternative to’ the heterosexual couple. Heteronormativity refers, in sum, to the myriad ways in which heterosexuality is produced as a natural, unproblematic, taken-for-granted, ordinary phenomenon.

One could argue then that this definition is very close to what most would perceive as homophobia and you wouldn’t be far from the truth. Homophobia is more like the sibling of heteronormativity but louder and in your face. Heteronormativity is the more day to day, subtle process that are so pervasive to our culture and much more akin to colonialism. Essentially it is the basic form of sexual expression and the very foundations on which societies are built. It states that the only normal expression is that of a man and a woman and anything else is deviant or less than normal.

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This can be seen by the laws of the communities all of us belong to, when you see countries that punish homosexuality by violent acts, jailing, or the extreme being killing. It only reinforces that heterosexuality is the only acceptable course of life. These are unacceptable and downright inhumane, and you think this can’t happen in our country because of laws that have started passing in the last fifty years. You are right in that assumption; however, it still exists here, and it done much more subtly. Sure, it can be argued that LGBTQ people are the minority and that as such the majorities mindset shouldn’t have to change to placate such a small group. The problem is this very mindset goes beyond affecting only LGBTQ people. Also, we have to realize that not challenging this social injustice is just morally ambivalent to the status of society and wanting to create and environment where everyone is treated equally and fairly.

The very nature of heteronormativity implies the fact that a relationship is based on a ‘masculine’ and a ‘feminine’ person, as such it teaches that the men are the providers and women are the child bearers. Basically, stating that men are the top of the structure and create what is considered normal or acceptable. It creates the power struggle that allows men to believe they are the control in the situation and allowed to subjugate those below his status. It goes further to create standards of what is perceived as the sexual male and female, from how they talk, how they stand, or how they dress. It does not allow for any deviation on those standards. It only allows for a sexual desire between the male of female sex and that only those who physically appear as men can be attracted to those who physically appear as women.

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So how has this affected the LGBTQ people? It pervades our very culture and has shaped it over time, whether we want to admit it or not. For gay men it has colored our sexual proclivities. Tops and bottoms, femme and butch are a good representation of it. We have shaped our ideas of how sex should be based on ideas that were taught to us by our parents, school, and environment we have grown up with and lesbians have much the same basis. It has also created the mindset lesbians and gays cannot be friends, old mindset but still happens today. It has given us the ability to persecute drag queens and our transgender brothers and sisters. It is also the very reason why many of us view bisexuals with such disdain. We were taught that sexual attraction can only fit an either-or situation, that anything outside of that isn’t right and should be judged.

 

There are still plenty gay men who believe that you can only be a top or a bottom. I can’t count how many times I have heard the phrase that versatile means a bottom in denial. Or if they say they are top versatile that they are pretending to be something they aren’t. It is a restatement of a masculine and a feminine role and that it cannot be anything other than that. They are the same ones who argue this is my preference and just how I am, when it is more of the fact that it is what has been taught to us since we were kids. As LGBTQ people, we fight against the molds that society places upon us, to show we are what we are and not a mistake. We fight for our differences while at the same time maintaining outdated modalities that shouldn’t apply to us.

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It goes further when you hear things like ‘straight acting’ or ‘masculine’ gay male, as if they very nature of someone who isn’t a perceived idea of what it is to be male is offensive. Why is feminine deemed unworthy of affection or desire? Heterosexism typically implies that being feminine is below being masculine and therefore subpar. Again, we follow a precept of a group that we try our hardest to distance ourselves from while at the same time cow tailing to that very same group for acceptance and justification in our equality. It is the very reason we strive for marriage equality, we feel it would give us the feeling of being normal and just like the happy married straight couple who deserves all the benefits that’s comes with being a married couple.

A challenge for you; Google the word couple and look at the images that populate. At least 90% of the images returned will be of heterosexual white couples. Out of the first page of results, you may see ten images that are LGBTQ and out of the ten one is of a transgender couple. It is a proof that the majority believes that marriage is about heterosexual couples and most focus on white heterosexual couples. Don’t believe me? Watch ten episodes of “Say Yes to The Dress” and count how many minority couples are on the show. This shows the mindset of the general populace and one that we need to actively work on changing.

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Delusions of Equality

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So, You Think We Have Rights?

Were we, as LGBTQ people, tricked into supporting legalized marriage? Seems like a shocking thing to say, right? How hard is it to believe that the powers that be convinced us to change our fight for rights to something more controllable?  We have fought for our rights that the Constitution gave every American citizen long before the Stonewall riots of 1960, it was that even that solidified our movement forward. That isn’t where our history began. Somewhere between the events of 1960 and now we changed our focus on activism to push for Marriage Equality. We were tricked into believing that would make us more acceptable and would be the means in which we achieved the rights of our heteronormative counterparts. This very focus changed what we viewed as important and what we were protesting over.

1500 Rights and an Equal Symbol

The Constitution guarantees us certain inalienable rights, but did you know that those people who are licensed to officiate a marriage also have the ability to grant married couple 1500 rights that single people do not have. What makes these people so special that they can grant rights that the Constitution cannot? The answer to that is simply a piece of paper and recognition by the state in which they reside. I state this because I am legally able to perform wedding ceremonies. In Ohio, it cost me $10, that was a filing fee. Some of these rights include the ability to receive discounted rates for homeowners’, auto insurance, ability to make medical decisions about their spouse, get health insurance through their spouse’s job, Medicare, and Social Security. All things that are not given to single people. As a single person, there is a fair change that any benefit that you leave to your siblings, relatives, friends or lovers could be contested and even absorbed back into the system that you paid into. We were somehow duped into believing that these are rights deserved by marriage only. The HRC has been famous for parading out people to show how marriage equality would have prevented any issues. Take for example Edith Windsor whose 84-year-old partner died in 2009. Upon her death Edith was faced with estate taxes of $400,000 and the court case argued that if she had been married this wouldn’t have been an issue. Windsor became a poster child for marriage equality. The New York Times made Windsor out to be a slightly impoverished victim of not having the right to marry, in fact it was later proved that her net worth was over $10,000,000. HRC backed the case and continued to make sure she was the victim. During Pride season it was common to see t-shirts and posters showing “I AM Edith Windsor.”

Where was HRC and the media showing how this would affect those of lesser means and why weren’t they the example to be held up. HRC is famous for only showing the social elite in its media presentations, like for instance Chicago’s reclusive gay media mogul, Fred Eychaner who commands a large fortune and even held private meetings with President Obama. These are the ones that are chosen as our representatives for marriage equality, not the ones struggling to get by on food stamps and living in horrible conditions because landlords will not rent to LGBTQ people. What has HRC given us in return for all of this? The erasure of part of our LGBTQ history by replacing the rainbow with the blue and yellow equality symbol. A symbol to represent unification without the supposed boundaries of the rainbow, but one built only on the examples of privileged LGBTQ people.

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The Painful Truth of the Stonewall Riots*

2009 was the fortieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots and is often used as a means to draw parallels between the Gay Rights Movement of then versus now. During that same year, a column was written by Frank Rich of The New York Times, in this column he described the events of the riots: “The younger gay men and scattered women who acted up at Stonewall on those early summer nights in 1969 had little in common with their contemporaries in the front-page political movements of the time.” The stranger truth of this is that the riots were started by drag queens and the transgendered people of the time and were the very types of people that most gay men didn’t associate with, in the first place. Even still today, these groups are marginalized by our own community. The very people who propelled the movement into the modern era are rarely in the media as who rights will affect. The group that sparked the Stonewall riots were considered the fringe of the LGBTQ lifestyle, many were prostitutes, homeless youth, effeminate young men, and butch lesbians. These were the groups most often arrested by the police and were distanced from by the early homophile groups. These groups believed that gays should assimilate into heterosexual culture, without distinction.

HIV/AIDS Shaped Health Benefit Battles

With the onset of the 1980s, activism shifted due to the increasing devastation caused by AIDS. We watched as our community was ravaged by this disease and all denied the ability to be with our loved ones as they were dying in hospitals. This was due to the fact that we were not seen as family members or couples. The early roots of marriage equality were sparked from these sad affronts. Why were only heterosexual couples given this “special” right to be with their loved ones in the hospital. We were told that we did not matter because we were not related, and our love was illegal. As so many gay men were dying, it was our lesbian sisters who took up the cause for pushing through legislation about healthcare reform and how AIDS research was handled. The AIDS Quilt was put into place to memorialize those that we had lost to this monster of a disease. Still, we were not allowed to be with our loved ones in their last struggles. The fight for marriage started. In the same article by Frank Rich intimated that had gays been bestowed the rights of marriage unto them, the struggle with AIDS would not have been so bad. That somehow our suffering only happened because we did not have marriage equality. The truth is that healthcare reform should have come to singles and not just married couples. There should not have been the division of rights that would have prevented us from having adequate health care coverage or the ability for our loved ones to be by our side

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Is Healthcare The Goal?

As of now, it was argued that gay marriage would be a way to extend healthcare to our lovers, through the union of marriage. Our current administration is working to subvert this very right granted by the union. If you haven’t been paying attention, Trump is pushing for the HHS (Health and Human Services) to change how healthcare is doled out to the masses. He is working to make sure that anything about gender is removed from the language and working to allow healthcare workers the ability to turn away patients that are against their religious beliefs. So, the principles that groups like HRC and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have convinced us to work towards are on the verge of being taken away because of religion. So much for separation of church and state. This is the very proof that we have worked all the years for a goal that in effect means absolutely nothing. We should have been working on making sure that healthcare was accessible by all people, regardless of their standing as a couple. We should have been working to make sure that education reform was put into place that would change how the masses view minorities

Gay Marriage, The Cure All*

In 2008 there was an uptake in youth suicides due to the effects of relentless bullying by peers based on a presumption of the youth being gay. This led to many gays and straight advocates of making an assumption that the legalization of gay marriage would have an effect of lowering the stigma of being gay and thereby aiding in lowering the rates of suicide and making queer and queer identified teens appear more normal. What actually can be inferred from this assumption is that all social problems are directly tied to marriage and the rights that union bestows upon people. It would seem more logical that proper education and inclusion training would do better to diminish this negative outcome more than marriage equality would have an effect upon. In December of 2009, Melissa Harris-Lacewell wrote about her lesbian niece and the suffering she endured at her school. It was so bad that she eventually transferred to another school to escape it. Harris-Lacewell argued that marriage equality should be passed to ensure her niece did not have to go through this trauma. Her arguments state that marriage equality would make life easier for the LGBTQ people. The statistics for LGBTQ youth that attempt suicide are staggering and those numbers are from those who feel they cannot bear to live in a homophobic world. They experience bullying from their peers, negativity from the family situation, and constantly being told how they are wrong or sinful. They already live in a word that tells them how they will not accept any form of deviation from the norm. Pushing for marriage equality is telling our LGBTQ people that conformity is the only way to survive in this world and that any form of nonconformity can and should lead to death.

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Union of Individuality

I am not opposed to anyone wanting to spend the rest of their lives with the ones they love. Each person needs to make that decision on their own. The history of marriage shows that it is more about keeping wealth and power in a given family, as opposed to being about love. It is a union that is sanctioned by a State and Federal Government contract that gives you rights that should be available for all people. Perhaps we should have worked to use different wording that could be used to express the love we say we are joining over. Our fight should be for achieving the same rights that others have, not change the fact that we are different from others. That is the key to all humanity, no one is like another person. Celebrate what makes us who we are, embrace the differences, and love the ones that can lift us up in spite of them.

*Against Equality: Queer Revolution Not Mere Inclusions” Edited by Ryan Conrad copyright 2014

 

The annual Pride Parade is replaced with a Resist March as members of the LGBT community protest President Donald Trump in West Hollywood, California
The annual Pride Parade is replaced with a Resist March as members of the LGBT community protest President Donald Trump in West Hollywood, California, U.S. June 11, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Dorothy Jean

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Eight years ago, this February 10, my mother passed away. It was a monumental milestone in my life because she was probably the one person who really knew me. The person that I never really had to tell them how I felt, she just knew. No matter where I was, if either of us needed to talk we instantly knew and would pick up the phone. She was an amazing person that shaped my life in many ways and some I didn’t fully understand until later in my life. I try to honor her daily and celebrate the good times of her life.

I guess, for me, the reason we are so close is the amount of time my mother spent beside my bed for various events in my life. That started at my birth when I was born blue due to oxygen deprivation, after which I spent the first few weeks of my life in an incubator due to other complications. Mom told me that it was rough the first few weeks and the doctors were watching my condition closely. From childhood, it was diagnosed that I was allergic to almost everything in the environment; dust, mold, pet dander, pollen, and bees, being the largest of those. Beestings were and are the worst for me, it turned out I had a very severe allergy to bees. There were three events of me being stung that I almost died, and Mom was there, in my ear, telling me to get myself together and stay with her. Once, my blood pressure and heart rate were so low that I remember the doctors telling her they would be shocked if I made it. Being the mother, she was, she simply whispered words of encouragement to me, reminding me that I was stronger than this.

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There were times when I was a child that I had some very dark thoughts. I had written her letters telling her how much of a freak I thought I was, that I should run away, or that I didn’t deserve to be alive. Parents today would freak out, my mother remained strong and simply talked to me about my issues. She listened to what I had to say, crying along with me. Her words of strength filled me with such light that I felt I could endure anything. She stood by me when I needed an ally and she kicked my ass when I needed motivation. She sat with me through school when I could not understand what I was being taught and showed me new ways of looking at problems and understanding, recounting stories of her adversity to show me that strength is more than physical prowess, it is the ability to adapt and overcome.

She gave me room to grow to become my own person and encouraged me to pursue my dreams. She took me to college and was there to help me when I came home. She never gave up on me, no matter how much I thought my world had ended. I had done the best I could, as a child, to hide that I was different. To now show that I was gay. At times I dated women, even if they were the wrong choice, to make my mother feel that I was the son I thought she wanted. In the summer of 1995, I knew I couldn’t hide myself any longer. My mother and I worked in the same mall and I would often go and have lunch with her. On one summer day in July, I decided I would finally tell her the truth. For the last year I had been going to the only LGBTQ in a two-hour distance and thought it was time to finally be free. While we were eating lunch, I told her that we needed to talk, not taking my eyes off the sandwich I was eating. She was working on the schedule for her job and only replied “Ok.”  And I started it like so many cliched movies by saying “You know how people are different, they do different things, try different things, and love different people?” She only replied “mmmhmm.” My nerves quickly kicked into overload and thought I was going to swallow my heart in telling her something that would destroy her. I fumbled back and forth over trying to explain it in a way that would make it seem the most natural thing in the world. My mother put down her pen and looked over the rim of her glasses and stated quite simply and elegantly, “I love you no matter what and I have known you were gay since you were a kid. Nothing has changed.” I choked on my own breath thinking how she could have known, I hid it so well. This can’t be. I waited for an explosion of anger that never came.

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It was seven months later that I told her about the man I met and how he made me felt. How I had never known love like I feel with him. She never judged nor sneered, she never said anything derogatory or hurtful. The only words she said was “As long as he treats you well and I meet him for my approval, it is fine.” Even when I went on further to explain to her that he was HIV+, her only concern was about us being safe. Looking back, I know that it must have terrified her to know that I was in love with someone that was HIV+, this was the mid 90s and HIV was still pretty much a death sentence. The stigma of being gay in our small town was bad and add that with HIV and you were almost a guaranteed outcast or worse. Two weeks later, I introduced her to Shawn and she instantly fell in love with him and became like a son to her.

When Shawn passed on February 28, 2003, she was the first person I called. She stayed on the phone with through all of my hysterical, sobbing fits, comforting me and calming me into some form of sanity. She and my sister sat beside me at his funeral while his family made a mockery of his life, never once even acknowledging that I was a part of it. Eight years we spent together, and they claimed he hated being gay, that he felt he had been led astray. All of which was not true, Shawn loved being a gay man and had an immense pride in the LGBTQ community. My mother sat beside me recalling seeing him do drag and how he often called her for strength. As they tore him down, she built him back up for me.

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It was five years later that my mother’s health started to decline. I moved back home to be near her, but I in no way had the strength she had shown me. It was hard going to the doctor visits with her and hearing how they could not explain the things she was going through. It weighed on me every time she went back into the hospital for more unexplained internal bleeding. I watched her very being change as I sat beside her and I constantly wondered how I was not as strong as she was with me during similar times. My fear often turned to anger because I knew the time was coming in which I would be without her and I was afraid of how I would deal with it. The person who had been my rock through my life needed me and I could only worry about not having her with me anymore. Why did I not have the strength that she so often showed me, why was I so weak. And when she passed February 10, 2011, I was angry at myself for not being more present with her. She was not gone from my life and I was left with the regrets of not being a rock for her.

It has taken me eight years to learn that she still teaches me things every day. The lesson I still struggle to learn is she probably had the same fears that I was going through as her health decline. The difference is that she showed the strength to not let them control her and she became the strength that I and others did not have. That is what made her a mother and it is the same strength that I hope to still have. While you may be gone from my life, Mom, you will never leave my heart. Thank you for building me up and providing the foundation to be a strong person. I Love You!cropped-img_0117